Coach, Leader

Preferences and Expectations

September 2, 2013

Don’t let your preferences become expectations.  We all have preferences.  We like things done the way we want them done.  The problem is when we begin to expect others to do things by our preference.  It is an upset waiting to happen.

The challenge is we make our preferences expectations.  We like things a certain way. We like making our preferred way the right way.  If it is done any other way, it is wrong. This is a problem.  There are thousand of ways to accomplish something.  None of them are right or wrong. Yet, we label the 999 ways we do not prefer as wrong.  This causes problems within relationships. Our preferences become unspoken expectations.

One of the main causes of upsets within relationships is unmet expectations.  We expected something.  It did not happen the way we preferred and we become upset. Depending on the importance of the the matter, our upsets can vary from minor annoyance to full blown rage.  All over an expectation.  We expected something.


Expectations are OK, as long as the other person is aware and agreed to the expectation. The key is awareness and agreement.  We need to let others know what we expect from them.  Below are a few simple steps to manage our expectations.

  1. What do you want/expect?  Before you can communicate to another person what you expect, you first need to know what you want.  Many of us, have no clue what we want until we are disappointed by someone.  Spend a few minutes writing down what you want/expect from the other person.
  2. Review your expectations for reasonableness. Are your expectations reasonable. If you were presented with your requests from your friend, would you readily agree to them.
  3. Review your expectations with the other person. The timing for this is important. It needs to occur when both individuals are calm and approachable. Start with a request. Ask the person if they would be willing to live by your expectations.
  4. Negotiate. Sometimes your request will be accepted wholeheartedly with a “I did not know this bugged you.”.  Other times it will be laughed at with a, “Really, how petty.” Most of the time, the response will be somewhere in the middle.  Work on a solution that both individuals are comfortable with.
  5. Document the results. Write down what was agreed to.  What we hear and understand does always sync with the other person. If both individuals can review what is written down, it removes ambiguity.

The other individual now knows and agrees with your expectations.  You now have the “right” to be upset if the person does not meet your expectations.

Relationship Tip:  Even though you have the “Right” to be upset, relationships work so much better when we do not focus on our “Rights” and instead focus on the relationship.

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